In the punk and emo worlds, the old mantra "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" best exemplifies this month's heavy hitters. Chicago punks Rise Against never set out to reinvent the wheel, but somewhere along the way, their caffeinated brand of political punk caught on with the mainstream, making them radio rock darlings. The group is back with The Black Market, a disc that doesn't so much shift the band's sound as it does add nuance to keep things interesting (see first single "I Don't Want to Be Here Anymore"). Likewise, emo forefathers Braid return with their first album in 16 years, No Coast, proving that while subsequent iterations of the mid- to late-'90s emo sound are passable, no one does it better than the originals.
But for all the attention the old hat deserves, there's plenty of boundary-stretching going on with the scene's younger acts. The Wonder Years' Dan Campbell sets out as Aaron West, a character study in the vein of The Mountain Goats that's equal parts engrossing and heartbreaking; Driver Friendly break out brassy indie rock on their debut, Unimagined Bridges; Joyce Manor turn in Never Hungover Again, one of the year's finest discs; and easy core pioneers Four Year Strong mosh things up with Go Down in History. And let us not forget '68, as former Chariot frontman Josh Scogin launches sonic shrapnel into your earbuds, or Crown the Empire, who dress up a post-apocalyptic world on the massively ambitious effort The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways.